SEC asks companies to disclose offshore cash: report

(Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has asked companies like Dow Chemicals <DOW.N>, Fortune Brands <FO.N>, Caterpillar <CAT.N> and CIT Group <CIT.N> to disclose the amount of cash they hold offshore, the Financial Times reported.

The move comes amidst increased attention toward the impact of tax rules that encourage U.S. companies to keep earnings overseas, the paper said.

The SEC decided to focus on the issue of overseas cash more broadly after disclosures at Microsoft <MSFT.O> and Google <GOOG.O> earlier this year prompted interest in the subject, people familiar with the matter told the FT.

The U.S. government taxes U.S. businesses on income earned worldwide, but allows them to defer taxes on the money until it is brought back to the United States. As a result, American corporations like to keep the money abroad, particularly as they increase investment overseas.

U.S. companies do not have to break out earnings in foreign subsidiaries, making it difficult to determine from financial filings the amount of tax they save through each jurisdiction.

The SEC, however, raises questions through its public comment letters when it believes further information may be relevant and material to understanding a company's liquidity, the paper said.

None of the parties were immediately available to comment outside regular business hours in the United States.

(Reporting by Gowri Jayakumar in Bangalore; Editing by Matt Driskill)